The Six Pack: Ohio State vs. Michigan, Notre Dame vs. USC among the best Week 13 college football picks

We’ve reached the most bittersweet weekend of the college football season. Sure, we get the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving and a full slate of games on Friday and Saturday, but it’s also the final week of the regular season. It’s like the end of the fireworks show on Independence Day. They save the biggest blasts for the end of the show, but then it’s just over.

Sure, we have conference championship games and the bowls, and those will be wonderful. But there’s nothing quite like a college football Saturday, and this is the last full one.

So let’s cherish it because it’s a long wait until they return. And I think we can all agree that the best way to celebrate this weekend would be to go 6-0 in The Six Pack. All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

Games of the Week

Featured Game | Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines

No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State: So much of what I think happens in this game depends on the status of Michigan running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. Corum left last week’s narrow escape over Illinois at the end of the first half and played a snap in the third quarter before spending the rest of the game on the sideline. If his injury was serious enough to keep him out of a game the Wolverines trailed until the final seconds, it’s fair to question how healthy he’ll be for Ohio State.

That’s a significant question considering how dependent the Wolverines offense has been on Corum and the run game. The Wolverines rank fourth nationally in EPA per rush, but are a more modest 26th in EPA per drop back. And if I’m trying to exploit Ohio State’s defensive weakness, I’m not doing it on the ground. While the Wolverines are certainly better with Corum, I’m not sure how many points they score either way. Defensively, however, they should be able to contain the Buckeyes as well as anyone else can. So while I’m not overly confident in knowing the outcome of this game as far as the winner, I don’t see it becoming a shootout often. Ohio State 27, Michigan 21 | Under 56

Featured Game | USC Trojans vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

No. 15 Notre Dame at No. 6 U.S.C: For those who stopped paying attention to Notre Dame following its loss to Stanford, the team you saw then is not the same team you’ll see this weekend. In its first six games, Notre Dame averaged 2.06 points per possession, scored touchdowns on only 66.7% of its red zone possessions and had an explosive run rate of 8.8%. In five games since, the Irish have averaged 2.92 points per drive, have scored touchdowns on 73.1% of their red zone chances, and have an explosive run rate of 11.3%. It’s not the kind of output that can compete with what USC does, but the kind of output that can cause serious problems.

The Trojans picked up their biggest win of the season last week, but this is still a vulnerable defense. The USC defense has forced 24 turnovers this season, but 18 have been interceptions. You can’t intercept the ball when a team doesn’t throw it; when teams don’t throw it, they have plenty of success against the Trojans. The USC defense ranks 117th nationally in EPA per rush and 114th in defensive success rate against the run. I don’t see how the Trojans’ defense can get off the field enough for them to pull too far away, and if a Notre Dame defense that ranks 10th in sack rate and 19th in EPA per dropback causes a problem or two, things could get messy. USC 34, Notre Dame 31 | Notre Dame +5.5

Lock of the Week

Featured Game | TCU Horned Frogs vs. Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State at No. 4 TCU: I’ve thrown a lot of numbers at you, and I could throw a bunch more to explain this pick, but the numbers aren’t what’s important to me here. Iowa State is a team that plays in the muck and drags every opponent it faces down with it. That certainly doesn’t mean the Cyclones will beat you when they do so — they’re only 4-7, after all — but even when you beat them, you’ll leave covered in grime and feeling bad about yourself. Only one of Iowa State’s seven losses (27-13 vs. Oklahoma) has come by double digits. The other six losses have come by a combined 24 points. It dragged Baylor into the muck, then it brought in Kansas. Kansas State couldn’t escape, nor could Texas. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have been the last to play Iowa State’s game.

Now it’s TCU’s turn, and even though the Horned Frogs have everything left to play for, nobody escapes the Iowa State muck. Also, have you seen TCU’s offense lately? It hasn’t been performing at nearly the same level it did for most of the season. Through its first seven games against FBS opponents, TCU had an offensive success rate of 45.2%, scored 3.27 points per possession, and had an explosive play rate of 16.4%. Those numbers have dropped in his last three games to a 38.4% success rate, 1.92 points per drive and an explosive play rate of 11.4%. This team is limping to the finish line. That doesn’t mean it won’t get there, but it’s hard to trust it to cover this number. Not in the muck. TCU 27, Iowa State 23 | Iowa State +10

Wagon of the Week

Featured Game | Florida State Seminoles vs. Florida Gators

Florida at No. 16 Florida State (Friday): If I told you there was only one team in the country which ranks in the top five in points scored per drive and points allowed per drive in November, would you be able to guess what team it is? Because it’s Florida State, a team that opened the year with a surprising win over LSU in New Orleans but was written off after a three-game losing streak to start October. Well, it’s been a much different, and much better, team since then.

Granted, the competition has lightened a bit, but the dominance is still just that. The Seminoles are flying right now and have a chance to make a statement this weekend. I think they will. The Gators should be able to move the ball against the Noles better than most teams have lately, but I don’t see how they get any stops. Florida State has been one of the country’s best third- and fourth-down offenses this season; the Gators defense is one of the absolute worst in those situations. The Noles can get stops, and I don’t know that Florida can. Florida State 37, Florida 23 | Florida State -9.5

Over of the Week

Featured Game | Duke Blue Devils vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake Forest at Duke: I genuinely do not understand this totally because I see this game flying into the 70s more often than it doesn’t. We have two potent offenses against two defenses that can’t slow anyone down. Yes, Wake Forest seemed to have a meltdown for a couple of weeks, turning the ball over at an alarming rate against Louisville and NC State, but it’s rebounded since. He put up 34 points in a close loss to North Carolina and 45 against Syracuse last week.

Meanwhile, Duke has never stopped scoring points, and if not for a 24-7 win over Virginia Tech, its defensive numbers would look worse than they already do (and they don’t look great). I don’t imagine this will be one of the most popular games to watch on Saturday afternoon, but it has an excellent chance of being one of the most entertaining of the day. Wake Forest 38, Duke 37 | Over 66.5

Upset of the Week

Featured Game | Kentucky Wildcats vs. Louisville Cardinals

No. 25 Louisville at Kentucky: Kentucky coach Mark Stoops received a contract extension this week, and with Kentucky having lost two straight — including to Vanderbilt — the jokes came easy. But Stoops deserves the extension for everything he’s done in Lexington, and it was better to announce it this week than it would have been after a loss to Louisville.

And there’s a real chance the loss to Louisville is coming. As I said, Kentucky’s lost two straight and is limping to the finish line. Louisville has won five of its last six, with the lone loss coming on the road to Clemson. The vibes are much stronger in Louisville, but if the vibes aren’t enough, there’s the matchup. Kentucky’s offense is bad, but it’s been at its worst against teams that can get after the QB. Well, Louisville ranks seventh nationally in pressure rate and second in sack rate. That’s bad news for a Kentucky offensive line that has struggled all year. Louisville 24, Kentucky 20 | Louisville (+130)

Games of the Week

1-1

11-13-1

-3.3

Lock of the Week

0-1

4-9

-5.9

Overall

3-3

37-38-1

-1.53

Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 13, and which top-25 teams will go down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,000 in profit over the past six-plus seasons — and find out.

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